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doing better for adolescent girls

March 26, 2012

Adolescents, and adolescent girls in particular, have been a group having received increased attention in development in recent years. Recent donor and private sector initiatives such as The Girl Effect, Girl Hub, Girls Count and the Adolescent Girls Initiative are a clear reflection of this increased interest. In 2011, UNICEF focused its annual report State of the World’s Children on adolescents, emphasizing the importance of focusing efforts towards this ‘age of opportunity’.

 A few years down the line and the results of puttting adolescents in the spotlight are now being questioned. Particularly Nike’s engagement has been scrutinized in the last few weeks. In the beginning of this month, IDS Naomi Hossain challenged the efforts by Nike to promote women’s empowerment through the ‘Girl Hub’ while at the same time employing women in their garment factories under deplorable conditions, including long hours, illegal and unpaid overtime and ill treatment. The very impact of the ‘Girl Hub’s is now also being questioned. In a blog post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters last Friday, Claire Provost refers to an evaluation of the DFID-funded and Nike supported campaign by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). It states that although the campaign did well in putting the issue of adolescent girls on to the agenda, it lacks impact and promotion of positive change for girls. The emphasis seems to be on ‘what girls can do for development, rather than on what development can do for girls’.

As with the focus on other vulnerable groups, for example Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), should we take these efforts as mere tokenism or good intentions gone wrong?

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